In case of force major, the MGM is for sale

Leap to shoot. According to Wall Street Journal, MGM studio is reportedly looking for a buyer to take over its assets, including an extensive catalog of jostling 007, Rocky or the Hobbit trilogy by Peter Jackson films. No official selling price although the value of the company is estimated at 5.5 billion dollars (4.5 billion euros). Here is yet another symptom of the crisis affecting Hollywood at the time of the Covid: MGM is sitting on the assured success of the new Bond, To die can wait that it still cannot be released in a context of cinema opening and closing to the rhythm of the pandemic. The film freeze, expected since last April and further postponed until April 2021, makes MGM lose 1 million dollars per month, increasingly cornered.

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We are far from the golden age of the American studio whose appearance of the logo, at the start of its films, was undoubtedly the most memorable: a roaring lion, topped with the mention of the old-fashioned Latin phrase. “Art for art” (“Art for art”). Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer for close friends, the venerable MGM prided itself from the 1930s on having “More stars than in the heavens”, recruiting Greta Garbo, Buster Keaton or Clark Gable and producing classics like The Wizard of Oz, Gone with the wind, Let’s sing in the rain or Ben-Hur.

Bankrupt in 2010

Certainly, for financiers, the MGM soap opera for sale is nothing new. Declared bankrupt in 2010, the studio has often passed through different hands – sometimes controversial like the businessman Giancarlo Parretti, suspected of fraud, who nevertheless bought the company in 1990 for $ 1.2 billion thanks to a loan. of Crédit Lyonnais. After the big productions of yesteryear, MGM has diversified, buying United Artists (original co-financier of Bond and distributor of Billy Wilder) or putting a foothold in television (series Fargo and The Handmaid’s Tale).

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The $ 2.395 billion raised by the Hobbit does not detract from the fact that MGM, majority owned by the private investment fund Anchorage Capital (valued at $ 1 billion), remains an average weight in the landscape. Dependent on multiple partnerships (after Sony, it is now Universal which distributes Bond), it does not have the strike force of owner conglomerates behind, like AT&T for Warner.

A fund of 4,000 titles

But a takeover would not be so shocking, MGM has become so much more than a film factory: a fund of 4,000 titles (including the rights of Silence of the Lambs or the Stargate franchise), a content pool for Netflix or Amazon, as could be for Disney the Fox (which ironically was to merge with MGM in the early 1970s). According to CNBC, of ​​the billion dollars in revenue earned by MGM in 2019, 600 million came from their movie and television rights. But is that enough to satisfy the appetite for competitive content?

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In October, MGM was in fact already testing the waters by circulating a sale price, if any, of the rights of To die can wait to streaming platforms: $ 600 million. Too expensive for Netflix and others, while the studio released the usual retraction in case of failure (“The film is not for sale and its release is postponed to preserve the experience in theaters”). But until all agree on a fair price, it’s one more shake up in the cinema edifice, where the financial stakes get bigger as screens get smaller. The horizon bears neither the meat color nor the lilac mood of the famous MGM franchises, the Pink Panther and the Revenge of a Blonde. We’re still stuck talking big bucks in the cold, dystopian takeover of another Lion Studio property: RoboCop.

Léo Soesanto


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